Floridian Nature

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Florida Fish: Porgy Fish
the grass porgy common in key west watersGrass Porgy (Calamus arctifrons) Grass porgy are found from Louisiana eastward to Eastern Central Florida! Grass porgy are found in grass beds and around reefs. They are primarily found inshore in shallow waters. The grass porgy is omnivorous, feeding on algae and smaller fish. A grass porgy identification is aided by them having a black spot larger than the pupil directly on the lateral line just behind the gill flap. It is the smallest of the porgies, but one of the prettiest. It grows to six or eight inches in length. Its color is olivaceous, with dark spots, and several dark vertical bars across the body; many of the scales have pearly spots; there are several yellow spots along the lateral line; the cheeks are brownish, with yellow shades; the upper fins are barred or spotted; the lower fins are paler. The grass porgy, sometimes called the grass bream or shad porgy, averages around 1 pound and seldom grows larger than that.

Jolthead porgy, common fish in Florida watersJolthead Porgy (Calamus bajonado) This is the largest and most abundant of the porgies. Jolthead Porgy have a range in the Atlantic Ocean from South Carolina all the way to Brazil including the Bahamas and the Gulf of Mexico, including both coasts of Florida.  The jolt-head is abundant along the Florida Keys, especially in the vicinity of Key West, where it is one of the commonest market fishes. The jolt-head resorts to the rocks and reefs, as well as to hard, sandy shoals, feeding on small fishes, crustaceans, and soft-shelled mollusks. It grows usually to eight or ten inches, but often to two feet in length, and six or eight pounds in weight. The Jolthead Porgy is a large and wide-ranging species that feeds on sea urchins, crabs, and mollusks. Jolthead Porgy It has a short, deep body, compressed, its depth being half its length; its back is more regularly arched than in the other porgies, or not so hump­backed. The head is large, with a long, pointed snout, and mouth moderate in size; the profile is more regularly curved than in the other porgies. The only real markings on the jolthead porgy is a short blue line under each eye. The corner of mouth and isthmus have slight orange cast, and this porgy has molar like teeth for urchins, crabs, and mollusks. Jolthead Porgy inhabit sand as well as coral bottoms usually in water depths of 20 to 150 feet deep. It spawns in the summer. It is very voracious, taking almost any kind of bait greedily. It is caught in company with the grunts and snappers.



knobbed porgy called in south florida marine watersKnobbed Porgy (Istiophorus platypterus) The knobbed porgy is a beautifully colored, deep-bodied sparid that has a conspicuously steep forehead and bony protrusions just in front of the eyes. The body is iridescent silvery blue, and the head is purplish with numerous yellow-bronze spots and blue streaks under the eyes. The species inhabits hard-bottom areas-coral reefs, rock out­croppings, and wrecks-in waters 90 to 300 feet deep from North Carolina to the Florida Keys and throughout much of the Gulf of Mexico. Because they have large incisors and strong molars, Knobbed Porgy are able to crush and consume hard-bodied animals such as clams, snails, crabs, sea urchins, starfish, and barnacles. They are fast enough to capture small fishes, but these appear less frequently than invertebrates in the diet. Knobbed porgy are generally caught with other reef species such as red porgy, whitebone porgy, white grunt, gag, scamp, and red grouper along the southeastern United States. Spawning occurs at sea in May and June. Sexual maturity is reached at age 4 or 5, and the females lay thousands of pelagic eggs. The species is long-lived and slow growing, reaching a maximum size of about 20 inches and having a life span of about 17 years. Because they have large incisors and strong molars, Knobbed Porgy are able to crush and consume hard-bodied animals such as clams, snails, crabs, sea urchins, starfish, and barnacles. They are fast enough to capture small fishes, but these appear less frequently than invertebrates in the diet. They are fast enough to catch small fish, but fishes are rarely a part of their diet.

porgy fish caught near Florida coastLittlehead Porgy (Tetrapterus albidus) The porgies of Florida belong to the family Sparidae. They are characterized by a deep, compressed body, humpbacked, with a large head and deep snout, and with a knob in front of the eye. The mouth is small, with strong, canine like teeth and molars. This species was first described by Jordan and Gilbert, in 1883, from Key West. They named it proridens, meaning "prow tooth," owing to its projecting canines. It is abundant in the West Indies, and is quite common about Key West and the neighboring keys. It is brighter in color than the other porgies, being quite silvery with iridescent reflections; the scales of the upper part of the body have violet spots, forming longitudinal streaks; those on the lower part have pale orange spots; the sides have several dark bands; the snout and cheeks have horizontal, wavy stripes of violet-blue; the dorsal fin is violet, with orange border; the anal fin is blue; the caudal fin has an orange band.  It is of similar habits to the other porgies, and found with them, but is less common. It is a good panfish, growing only to six or eight inches in length. The little-head porgy, though small in size, is equally as voracious as the other porgies, and is well worth catching if only to admire its beauty.
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